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The Old Testament Missionary

The Protestant Reformation and the Gospel significance of the first Jewish missionary

In early October, I was invited by Pastor Rod and Ryan to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at Wycliffe College in the heart of Toronto. The conference was chock-full of Reformation scholars; each presentation reinforced the other by highlighting the gapping contrast between our modernized sense of Protestant theology to its intellectual forefathers, the sixteenth-century scholarship of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wycliffe, Huldrych Zwingli, Erasmus of Rotterdam, William Tyndale, among others.

In 1517 Europe, the Church and State were married, for better or for worse. The Catholic Church had its hand in every back pocket and its face in every bedroom, so the degree of impact the Reformation had on a social, political, ecclesiastical and cultural scale, especially in regards to the Christian mission, was colossal. With the printing press on the outside and the Reformers hoisting the flag of justification by faith alone from the inside, it was a perfect storm. The Church sadly split, yet radically shifted from a sacramental system of vantage point dictation, ordinances and observances to a present moment participation of faith and first-person experience of gospel-centric theology. Now with the Bible in every household and the gospel in every hand, evangelical propagation became personal rather than institutional.

For those who, perhaps, have not reflected on what the Christian mission actually means or have never been acquainted with the term missiology, the word mission itself comes from the Latin verb missio, which means, “to send”. In laymen, it is known as the Great Commission; in scholarship, it’s referred to as the Missio Dei (“Mission of God”), where the main purpose, mandate and moral duty for each missionary is “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) and “…make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). This was not only the mission of the apostles – since the word apostle means the “one who is sent” – it was the mission of Christ Himself (John 17:8, 18) and His subsequent disciples[1].

“And, like most Reformation scholars, temptation to isolate the Epistles in place of the Gospel and favour their theology over the historical narrative is readily available.”

Missiology, then, through the lens of the Reformation’s five solas, particularly sola Scriptura and Martin Luther’s deep-seated conviction of justification by faith alone (sola fides), is concerned with how to contextualize the gospel to a particular culture. Aided by social research and applied science today, it is now a multi-disciplinary study and branch of practical theology about how to most effectively evangelize the gospel message and cultivate a growing church in relation to the world around it. This approach has only expanded in scope. Due to new technology over the last hundred years, mission work went from a tireless hands-on grind of travelling, converting and planting new churches (congregation), no matter the cost, to a weekly upload from one’s bedroom, so to speak. It went from a strict focus on local growth to now understanding its global impact and imperative.

As such, the issue today is less about how to get the Word out and more of an apologetic of Scriptural authority. As simple as the gospel may sound, its scope is so pervasive that people often get their knots tied up on how to do it right, particularly in correlation to God’s Will in the Old Testament. And, like most Reformation scholars, temptation to isolate the Epistles in place of the Gospels and favour their theology over the historical narrative is readily available[2].

Now, with respect to each speaker – their integrity I dare not put to question – there was one blanket statement addressed, in particular, that really snagged my line. Each presentation drew from the Reformer’s determination that there was no basis, evidence or any amount of precedent in the Old Testament to support, let alone theologically substantiate, missiology found in the New Testament. That is to say, the Old Testament is totally absent of missionaries and our missiological duty. This – apparently – causes tremendous difficulties in the intellectual community. How are we to effectively justify our purpose, mandate, and mission present in the New Testament with no Old Testament representation (specifically in relation to the Law)? I will address that question in a moment – first, the presupposition that there is no missiological basis in the Old.

Jonah and the Whale by Italian Master, c. 17th century

Is there any basis in the Old Testament for missionary work?

After listening to each presentation, question and answer naturally followed suit. Instinctually, the obvious thought came to mind: “What about Jonah?” The answer to which was less than satisfactory. Like a fish out of water, it was quickly dismissed as irrelevant, “Well, I would hardly consider reluctance, pettiness and casting judgment on people as missionary work” followed by “I am not well versed in the Old Testament, can we stick to the New” (to put it briefly)[3]. It was overly presumptuous of me to have assumed that the academics at large had considered Jonah already. Frankly, in my mind, it was such a blatantly obvious example of Old Testament missions that I was taken back by the very idea that Jonah was not even worth discussing. Jonah was “sent” by God to travel to a foreign nation and preach a message from God against it as a means for repentance (Jonah 4:1-2). Granted, Jonah did not bring baptism, communion, or discipleship as revered in the New Testament, nor did he give the Law or offer sacrifice at Nineveh as required in the Old Testament. The soteriological ends in God’s command may appear rather empty without iconic representation. So, perhaps, the men of Nineveh are not considered saved in this account; they are just spared from destruction. Or, perhaps, the speakers prematurely took the bite and relegated Jonah to a divine comedy or satire, as so many liberal scholars before them.

Be that as it may, ​I will concede that Jonah is far from the ideal candidate of what we would consider a “missionary” today. Plainly, he comes across as a self-righteous, intolerant, prejudice diehard, yet despite his faults, God wanted him (and no one else) to preach at Nineveh, the prominent city and symbol of Assyrian power. In all irony to the scholars at hand, Martin Luther, for all of his strengths, was no saint either – he was an anti-Semitic, anti-cleric, intemperate, over-indulgent son of a gun. And most poignantly, both men stubbornly decided, at one point or another, who should have the right to hear the Word of God: For Jonah, the Assyrians should not; for Luther, the Jews should not. And, from an earthly standpoint, if I were forced to pick sides, Jonah actually had a moral reason to be ‘damned angry’ (Jonah 4:9) with the amoral conduct oozing out of Assyria, like burning people alive, skinning people alive (“flaying”), building towers or cladding city walls out of stretched skins, dismembering or plucking genitalia off men like “seeds of cucumbers”[4] and so on, whereas the Jews contemporary to Luther gave no such horrific violations. Sometimes God calls people right for the task, not necessarily those right by our standards or even, at times, with Him (2 Chronicles 36:22-23) – even if that means they have scales for skin. I think it is fair to say that neither Jonah nor Luther are the ideal moral icons to model yourself after for evangelism as opposed to, say, the Apostle Paul.

The Narrative. It ought to be obvious by now that it is not Jonah’s character or his theological sensitivity I intend to highlight – it is the overarching narrative itself and the Author’s intent that bears witness to the pragmatic heart and theological insight we see in the New Testament. For one, consider that Jonah is a rather odd book of prophecy. The predictive prophetic content is only five Hebrews words deep: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4). Admittedly, it also lacks the traditional characteristics of other historical books in Scripture and has strong ironic undertones. By consequence, whether historical or satirical, it begs to be read from an overarching perspective, to dive deeper into the thematic structure that underpins the story just to scratch the surface of its greater meaning and moral application, which then draws prophetic context and thematic unity from other Scripture.

Irrespective of culture and historicity, the art of storytelling was and still is known to be the best and most widely used method for general learning, especially moral truths and spiritual realities. This fact only intensifies in light of Scripture. For more than millennia the Christian worldview, by in large, was principally understood through the scope of narrative, that is historical narrative and traditional narrative of anecdotes, allegories, metaphors, and parables[5].

Similar to how the Scriptural narrative as a whole is selectively composed, the prophetic allusions, metaphors, and symbols that coincide with thematic structure of Jonah is curated in a way to construct a typological narrative, bypassing whether one considers the story of Jonah to be historical fact or fiction (considering Jonah is referenced as a real person in the historical canon of 2 Kings 14:25). For those who are not aware, typology is a non-verbal prophecy (as opposed to a direct verbal prophecy) and may include rituals, symbolism, imagery, or patterns to elicit a message, such as the Passover Lamb represents Jesus Christ delivering His people from death. This is especially true in regards to the Missio Dei, which finds sustenance from a New Testament vantage point. In fact, the historical position of the Church, as advocated by Tertullian, Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Calvin, was that Jonah was as a type of Christ, given the plain parallels of their accounts, and Judaism saw Jonah’s story as archetypal of God’s grace and willingness to deliver from death (1 Maccabees 6:8)[6]. Neither the ancient cultures nor sixteenth century theologians saw satire or comedy when they read Jonah. For these reason, it is not out of reach to assume the moral of this story has a clear proto-missiological precedent that prophetically foreshadows the Great Commission as a pre-Christ form of missions.

At the heart of the mission

The strongest and most prevalent theme of the entire Bible, salvation (or soteriology), begins in the Old and continues into the New with one key antecedent – repentance – whereby a verbal and behavioural affirmation of belief follows suit. This basic gospel message is not only at the heart of the Great Commission, but it also thematically aligns with Old Testament prophecy and narrative, which is exemplified in the Book of Jonah. Both the Apostle Peter and Paul affirm this basic gospel message as clear as water in the Book of Acts, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38-39; see also Acts 3:19; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). This soteriological theme is only reinforced by the book’s symbology.

Jonah’s name, meaning “dove”, is not only soteriological and eschatological symbolism in relation to the Holy Spirit, which represents the new creation motif in the present age (being baptized and “born again” as a “new creation” is the earmark of salvation: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) as well as the age to come (Revelation 21:1-7), it also implies typological diluvian imagery of Noah’s dove that carried a ‘message of salvation’ in the form of an olive branch Likewise, Jonah was a prophet called, commanded and sent by God to carry His word: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” (Jonah 3:2)[7]. For clarity, an olive was indicative of anointing oil, which was used to sanctify a person for priesthood or kingship (1 Samuel 10:1), that is to set them apart as “holy” (Exodus 30:29). The branch is no trivial image in the OT either, it is a prophetic royal image of Messiah (cf. Isaiah 4:2, 11:1; Jeremiah 33:15, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12). As a whole, then, the olive branch imagery implies a type of messianic new creation.

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah...”

Matthew 12:41

We all know how the story goes: Jonah flees in anger, is swallowed by a fish, utters a sincere Messianic prayer in its belly, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), is vomited on dry land and then goes to Nineveh to preach what God instructed. Jonah attempted to flee to Tarshish in the south of Spain because by going to the opposite end of the earth, so to speak, or by being casted into the raging sea, he was hoping God would simply destroy Assyria. He would rather die than betray his people. At the time, the Assyrians posed a massive and immediate threat to Israel. Some scholars even place this account after the Assyrian Exile, which would only fuel Jonah’s bitterness and anger all the more[8]. Either way, upon hearing the Word of God through Jonah, all the citizens of Nineveh begin to repent and so, in mercy, God relents and withholds calamity –– on the surface (whether the people were simply spared or truly saved is a matter of debate – more on this below). Furthermore, Jonah truly understood God’s character (compare Jonah 4:2 to Exodus 34:6-7); he knew God would show ‘grace and mercy in lovingkindness’ on the Assyrians if they repented, irrespective of their commitment to the Mosaic covenant.

From Jonah to Jesus

The story of Jonah records a clear example of Old Testament missions and God’s impartial love for all people, pagans and heathens alike, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11) and it foreshadows what we now call the Mission Dei before the Apostles realized the heart of the Great Commission, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18) As the dove carries a branch of repentance and salvation, Jesus Christ is the branch symbol made manifest and means by which salvation comes (cf. Matthew 4:17). A fact that did not stop Jesus from stressing these words: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:39-41; see also Luke 11:28-32)

It is no coincidence that Christ compares His His mission to conquer sin and death by crucifixion (physical death), descension (spiritual death), resurrection, and ascension to the prophet Jonah being “in the belly of the great fish” and Jonah likewise compares his experience to the “realm of the dead” who, then, afterwards goes out into the world and preaches God’s word – a transparent precursor to the Great Commission, especially for the Old Testament where the physical acts are a shadow of the spiritual (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 8:4-5; 10:1). In fact, the gist of Jonah’s story is a direct parallel to the symbolic earmarks of water baptism: the old self is voluntarily thrown into water to die as a sign of repentance and the new self comes out alive as a sign of salvation and new creation (Colossians 2:11-15).

What is even more fascinating, eschatologically speaking, is that Christ seems to affirm the historicity and spiritual reality of Jonah when He says the ones who had sincerely repented in Nineveh will in some way be a part of Israel’s final judgment and “condemn it, because they repented” in concurrence to Jonah being a real historical figure like Himself: “…indeed a greater than Jonah is here”. If we take this passage at face value, especially in comparison to the greater theme of Jonah, it intimates that Nineveh did not repent for their own gain nor did they repent to their gods, it means when Jonah preached the men of Nineveh heard the voice of God speaking through him, and out of conviction and contrition (Psalm 51:17) they humbled themselves and said “Let everyone call urgently on God” (Jonah 3:8; see also Acts 2:21; Joel 2:28-32; Romans 10:10-15), that is they repented and confessed to the one and only God, and turned from their evil ways in what may have very well been faith (or hope) that God would preserve them (Jonah 3:5-10). Jonah brought a special message of repentance that appealed to their general sense of God in spite of their abysmal theology. While it is true that Jonah’s message was extremely harsh, condemningly so, we must keep in mind that it was intended for the hardened hearts of the Assyrians who, contextually, were also terribly harsh.

This view is, in part, central to Martin Luther’s gospel hope: Justification by faith through God’s Word alone; that is, first and foremost. What is faith if not to repent? Luther acknowledges that this cornerstone tenet of present-tensed participation through faith is critical to the gospel and living a Christian life, “Now the mass is part of the gospel; indeed, it is the sum and substance of it. For what is the whole gospel but the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins.”[9] Interestingly enough, Jonah’s reluctance to prophesy, as well as his objectionable sentiments toward Assyria, only bolsters this basic yet overlooked gospel truth of message over messenger (Philippians 1:15-18, Galatians 1:8-9). In turn, it demonstrates whom missionaries ought to conform to: Jesus Christ, the Imago Dei.

“The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1633

To be fishers of men

The historico-typological narrative of Jonah, a prophecy told through the lens of a selective history, demonstrates a glimpse of what the mission meant to God early on, even during the time of His chosen people[10]. It’s a story of mercy over justice lest iniquity be full (Genesis 15:16). It impresses a footprint for salvation by repentance and through obedience that is for all of humanity, and lays the understated groundwork for all New Testament missionaries: God has and will always love everyone (John 3:16). And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus Christ vividly practices and unequivocally teaches this agape theology that we see candidly in the story of Jonah. He demonstrates that we ought to love our enemies, and that if we only love those who love us then we’re no different than the world, that is our neighbours who live without or against God (Matthew 5:43-48). Jesus even further illustrates this precept with the thief on the cross who might have “reviled Him [Christ]” for the same reason the chief priests, teacher of the law and elders did (Matthew 27:41-44, Mark 15:32) and that our love of neighbour extends beyond nation, culture, religion and family in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Despite our sentiment, opinion, sense of justice or distaste of the world – and in lack of the worlds as well (Jonah 2:8) – God loves the whole world, and everyone needs to hear the Word of God – they need the gospel! And that is precisely what we see happen in the Book of Acts and its fruits of labour in the Epistles: Evangelism is not just institutional – it’s necessarily Personal (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

Such is the case in Jonah. God’s message was personalized and spiritually contextualized to the men of Nineveh, albeit brief and pejorative, its biblical proportions nevertheless struck a chord (granted, it was presumably a longer prophecy spoken by Jonah that was deemed non-essential to the overarching points of the book). Jonah the person, however, begins and ends the story as a glowing example of what not to do. – Ha! In fact, Jonah’s character best represents the heart of what Israel had become. In its greater historical context, Jonah reflects the sorry state of Israel at the time of Jeroboam II. Jonah’s narrative would have reminded Israel of what they were called to but failed to obtain (Deut.7:6; Ex.19:4-6). Not a priesthood unto themselves, but as a testimony and witness to the nations on God’s behalf (cf. Isaiah 43:10; Ex.9:14-16).

Although just a minor prophet, Jonah plays a major role in the Scriptural narrative. And at the very least, I think it is safe to say that the Book of Jonah substantiates an overarching missiological basis for God’s global plan of salvation in the Old Testament – spiritual contextualization – and that the generation of Israel at the time was, quite possibly, aware of it[11]. What does that mean for us?

When the New is not so new.

I think the greater issue at large, here, is that by affirming there is no antecedent or basis for missions in the Old Testament, it can propagate a way of thinking that divorces the New Testament as independent of the Old, or that theology is impartial to history, or that morality is isolated from story, or that salvation depends on contextualization, or even that the Epistles are a law distinct from the basic gospel message[12], as if God’s “agape” love is a New Testament concept. In such a forced dichotomy between the two, God’s message of repentance to Nineveh merely floats along the surface as nothing more than biblical theatrics. And due to a lack of holistic theology, the heart of Jonah’s story is thrown overboard to sleep with the fishes.

This Old love and the Mission Dei is further expressed through the Great Commission to the Gentiles: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) The Apostle Peter’s declaration here explicitly unifies a central purpose that was intended for Israel, to make all people priests and disciples: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant… you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6) Amazingly, God’s “kingdom of priests” features the entire congregation of Israel as a complementary whole and does not exclude earthly professions such as farmers, shepherds, and traders. Meaning, the Levites were the predominate keepers of the Law as shadows of things to come, and all people were called to be members of the holy priesthood. A kingdom that William Tyndale, too, famously had in heart, “…If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” Therefore, by studying the Bible, praying with God, loving your neighbour, or even watching our Daily Show, you are proactively engaging in God’s global mission for us all. It is a liberty we owe dearly to the Reformation.

Matlock Bobechko is the Chief Operating/Creative Officer of Bible Discovery. He is an eclectic Christian thinker and writer, award-winning screenwriter and short filmmaker. He writes a weekly blog on theology, apologetics, and philosophy called Meet Me at the Oak. He is also an Elder at his local church.

If we limit our options from Jacob (Israel) to before the time of Israel’s Exile, so just the time of Israel’s nationhood, plausible candidates for a viable OT missionary narrow. Nevertheless, to carry the vein of thought, why is Moses not considered the first missionary? What differentiates the story of Jonah from, say, the story of Moses who likewise hesitantly listens to God’s Will, goes back to Egypt for the Israelites and speaks God’s message?

Well, it would seem prima facie that there is no reason that he ought not to categorically fall under proto-missiology. Albeit, the circumstances of Moses’ life invite quite the melting pot of categories: prophet, scribe, poet (Psalm 90), warrior, shepherd, reformer, political and religious leader, and possibly, even an early type of missionary. The argument here is if a missionary is dependent upon the mission or if the mission is dependent upon a missionary. Respectively, for all of his achievements, I don’t think Moses cuts the mustard. Moses was not bringing an explicit message of salvation to a foreign nation; he was tasked to deliver Israel, of like belief, out of Egypt to illustrate the latter means of salvation. Even though he later gives the Law to Israel, a means of salvation, the Law was not given first while they were in bondage. So, the soteriological implications are more in the overarching typological symbolism of the event (such as the Passover lamb foreshadowing Jesus Christ and baptism by crossing the Red Sea; 1 Corinthians 10:2) and the Covenant or Law than the direct message spoken by Moses. To reiterate, though he was given a mission by God to deliver His people from “bondage” and “slavery” like Christ delivers people from the bondage and slavery of sin, Moses acts as a symbolic framework of missions and is not a missionary by what we constitute as missions work in the New Testament and today. ​Admittedly, a case can be made for his candidacy. And if Moses is a missionary, I see no reason to exclude Abraham from this title, as well.

If we were to break our limitations and go further back down the timeline into Hebrew tradition, there are extra-biblical texts, apocryphal traditions, and other peripheral sources like the Book of Jasher or Enoch that pre-date Jesus Christ and Israel with striking similarities to base the missionary tradition found in the New Testament; albeit the texts are unpreserved and modified. It is recorded in tradition that both Methuselah and Noah, whom Peter calls a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), constantly spoke the words of the Lord, day after day, preaching repentance to save the people of the world from destruction as God instructed, “Speak ye, and proclaim to the sons of men, saying, Thus saith the Lord, return from your evil ways and forsake your works, and the Lord will repent of the evil that he declared to do to you, so that it shall not come to pass.”[11] If salvation pre-Christ was possible through repentance followed by obedience, and thus includes the acknowledgement of God’s supreme authority as the Apostle Paul claimed, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21), that is being made in the image of God, perhaps then, Methuselah and Noah are the first true missionaries and their former missiological failures offer incremental precedent for the latter. But alas, this is not Scripture, only tradition and speculation at best. Whether true or false, it may play its role in mutually shared belief in ancient times (2 Peter 2:5), but it does not institute a missiological precedent for the Apostles, or any missionary for that matter, to model themselves after.

Through a modern lens of missiology, it is fair to presuppose that Jonah was not a viable missionary because he did not appear to personally contextualize his language for the culture at stake; it was just a prophecy of destruction. Even so, it is under much debate, there is archaeological evidence at the tomb of Jonah that suggests God may have contextualized who He is to Nineveh by having a fish vomit the prophet out of its mouth. On the pantheon of the Assyrian gods was Dakan-Dagon, portrayed in the form of a fish-man, was the chief source of human culture and nourishment being the personification of the ocean with its wealth of fish. If Jonah came preaching a message of calamity after His God overpowered their god, that not even Dakan-Dagon could contain him, the message would only carry more weight with it and also hint at what Nineveh was losing: wealth and nourishment such as livestock. And duly note that in the book of Jonah the livestock play a central role in Nineveh’s repentance (Jonah 3:7-8, 4:11). It is a theme that strikes a remarkable resemblance to the ten plagues over the Egyptian gods, as well as the apostle Paul’s missionary journey when he fell shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 28:1-10). God overpowers foreign gods (and thus foreign powers and principalities). Admittedly, this is still speculation and subject to modification, but worth noting.

[1] Sproul, R.C. “The Biblical Basis for Missions.” August 31, 2015. Ligonier Ministries. Extracted from “The Crucial Questions: What is the Great Commission?” by R.C. Sproul.

[2] Adams, Samuel V. The Reality of God and Historical Method: Apocalyptic Theology in Conversation with N.T. Wright, 24.

[3] A missionary does not mean vacationary. A true blue missionary is not in it for his or her own sake – it is the mission of God and it is the missionary’s duty to abide even if that means preaching unpleasantry. Missionary work is not solely about positivity, optimism, or bringing moments of happiness to others, even with the Good News. While it is true that the Gospel does bring a depth to joy that surfaces as evangelical exuberance (and in my experience, cannot be achieved by or through any other means), for salvation to manifest, repentance is vital and by no means easy – it is often met with resistance. But, the argument at large is that there is no Old Testament basis for missiology, not the means by which missionary approaches his or her mission.

[4] Erika Belibtreu, Grisly Assyrian Record of Torture and Death (Editor, H. S. (2002;2002). BAR 17:01 (Jan/Feb 1991). Biblical Archaeology Society.

[5] In the Christian sense of the term, historical narrative plainly means the Bible contains history written in the form of story, which is then intertwined with the Biblical narrative as a whole. Therefore, historical narrative is written on real people and actual events that the prophets, through the Holy Spirit, curated it into a unified story.

[6] Stephen L. Cook, John T. Strong, Steven S. Tuell, The Prophets: Introducing Israel’s Prophetic Writings (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2022), 363-5.

[7] The parallels between Jonah and Noah do not stop there. Jonah’s name means “dove” and Noah’s name means “comforter”, which are both NT references for the Holy Spirit. In striking contrast, Jonah preaches “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4) while Noah’s Flood did destroy for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4). Both events revolve around great calamity, which explicitly includes, or would have included, human and animals. In Genesis 7:14, humanity does not repent and the waters flood the earth for 150 days while in Jonah the Assyrians immediately repent and Nineveh is destroyed 150 years later. Noah allows the world to perish while keeping his family safe on the Ark whereas Jonah allows himself to be thrown overboard to die to spare the lives of unfamiliar pagan sailors. Both Noah and Jonah seem to be narratives about God’s call to repentance, but with opposite results. If not for the story of Jesus Christ, these narratives would be loose ends. Instead, the three might form a theological arrow like some sort of chiastic sandwich! For yet another reversal, consider Jonah going to sleep on a ship and then a storm rages over the sea (Jonah 1:4-9) in juxtaposition to Jesus going to sleep on a ship and then the tempest, too, rages over the sea (Matthew 8:23-27), but these accounts yield different outcomes. In Jonah, God enrages the storm and Jonah is humanly powerless, whereas in the Gospels, Jesus Divinely overpowers and calms the storm.

[8] Havazelet, Meir. “Jonah and the Prophetic Experience.” Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought 10, no. 4 (1969): 29.

[9] Starcher, Richard L.; Huber, Philip C.; Jennings, J. Nelson; Hartley, Benjamin; Nussbaum, Stan; and Burrows, William R., “Perspectives on the Missiological Legacy of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation” (2017). Faculty Publications – College of Christian Studies. 228.

[10] Scott, David Randall. “The Book of Jonah: Foreshadowings of Jesus as the Christ.” BYU Studies Quarterly 53, no. 3 (2014): 175-6.

[11] Elliott, Charles. “Jonah.” The Old and New Testament Student 10, no. 3 (1890): 140.

[12] The Reformation was a pivotal event that turned the tide of Christian theology, socially and intellectually. That being said, with all accessible benefits made by the Reformation, it is not without its faults. It is typical of Reformation scholars to pedestal theology above the historical narrative demonstrated by God. And yet, by extracting the Hebraic history, we neglect (and with it to some extent we reject), the cultural contextual and subtextual meanings and implications that allow us to understand the intent, purpose and variation of the original language. Five hundred years later, we still feel the affects of poor judgment from the Reformation. It seems many Evangelical Pastors tend to disregard the history as impertinent or impotent to the whole Christian experience and, unfortunately, prioritize all things Reformation as God’s honest truth as if the Holy Spirit is impotent or idiosyncratic. Without the clarification of the Old, there can be no certification for the New. Yes, we are in debt to the steadfast strength of the reformers, but we ought to be careful not to pedestal their judgement above all else – that being the Church over the Holy Spirit.

[13] Johnson, Ken. The Ancient Book of Jasher, A New Annotated Edition (also called Sepher HaYasher), 13 (Jasher 5:7). The ancient Book of Jasher is referenced in Joshua 10:13, Samuel 1:18, and 2 Timothy 3:8. It plays a surprisingly considerable role in Jewish tradition. In Jasher, God charges Methuselah and Noah with 120 years to deliver the message of repentance, but “the sons of men would not hearken to them, nor incline their ears to their words….” The phrase translated “repent of the evil”, which is also found in Jonah 3:10, implies that God “temporarily removed the calamity”.

• Strawn, Brent A. Jonah and Genre. Oxford Biblical Studies Online.

• Franz, Gordon. Nahum, Nineveh and Those Nasty Assyrians. Associates for Biblical Research. Published 28 May 2009.

• Roskoski, John. Dagon: The Philistine Fish God. Associates for Biblical Research. Published 04 September 2008.


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